Carew 'gutted' as Waterford miss golden chance of taking Galway scalp
Galway 1-12 Waterford 0-14
The last time the Tribesmen won two qualifier games in a season they went on to win the All-Ireland title, but you will be hard-pressed to find people in Galway this summer entertaining such notions.
Indeed, they were lucky not to be the victims of one of the biggest shocks in qualifier history as they were saved in the end by a Michael Meehan goal six minutes from time at a wet and windy Pearse Stadium on Saturday.
Galway won the All-Ireland the first year the back door system was introduced in 2001. Since then, Waterford have won just three championship games – a qualifier against London two years ago and two Munster matches against Clare.
But, with 15 minutes left at Pearse Stadium, they were a goal to the good after shooting six unanswered points and had a strong wind coming off Galway Bay behind them.
"We left it behind us," lamented manager Niall Carew. "We had two other chances and we missed them. You have to take them at this level. We are absolutely gutted."
You couldn't blame him. They put the 26-point drubbing to Kerry behind them. Their tactics were excellent – loads of players behind the ball against the wind in the opening half, and a strong willingness to build the passes from the back.
Add in the fact that they had the man of the match in corner-forward Paul Whyte and the ingredients were there to stun a Galway side still reeling from their Mayo hammering.
Whyte, a four-year senior despite being only 21, gave an awesome display of kicking. He landed 0-8, half of them from play, and tormented the home defence.
His display, along with a couple of points from Andy Doyle, ensured that Galway did not build on a bright start which yielded three points for Meehan in the opening six minutes, and Waterford were in with a real shout when they only trailed by 0-10 to 0-7 at the break, despite having played against the wind.
Gary Hurney kicked a couple of points in the third quarter as Whyte kept shooting great scores to lead by 0-13 to 0-10 with 15 minutes left.
But Galway rescued the day. Paul Conroy got on top at midfield with another big performance. Sean Armstrong got their first score of the second half after 58 minutes with a free and then set up Meehan for the crucial three-pointer.
"We had one or two chances in the first-half but we didn't convert them," said Galway boss Alan Mulholland.
"They might have put a different slant on the game but we were just delighted and relieved to see Michael hit the back of the net with a couple of minutes to go."
Scorers – Galway: M Meehan 1-5 (0-1f), P Conroy 0-4 (2fs), S Armstrong (f), D Cummins, M Martin 0-1 each. Waterford: P Whyte 0-8 (3fs, 1 '45'), G Hurney, A Doyle 0-2 each, T Grey, B Wall 0-1 each.
Galway – M Breathnach 7; C Forde 5, F Hanley 6, J Duane 6; C Doherty , G O'Donnell 6, G Sice 6; P Conroy 8, G Higgins 6; J O'Brien 6; S Armstrong 6, M Farragher 5; D Cummins 7, M Meehan 7, M Hehir 5. Subs: K Kelly 7 for Forde (28), M Martin 7 for Hehir (45), T Flynn 6 for Higgins (49), S Denvir 6 for Doherty (52), F O Curraion 6 for O'Brien (60).
Waterford – S Enright 7; N Walsh 6, T O'Gorman 7, M O'Gorman 7; C O'Keeffe 5, S Briggs 7, C Phelan 5; T Prendergast 6, S Ahearne 7; T Grey 6, G Hurney 7, A Doyle 7; B Wall 6, P Whyte 9, L O Lionáin 6. Subs: R Ahearne 6 for Wall (60), D Allen 5 for Prendergast (68).
Ref –D Fahy (Longford)